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The long walk to the border for Hari Raya Haji trip home

The hustle and bustle at the Thai border is expected to continue even after the celebration as the workers then make their way back into Malaysia.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
3 minute read
A traveller heads towards the Immigration, Customs, Quarantine and Security Complex in Rantau Panjang, Kelantan.
A traveller heads towards the Immigration, Customs, Quarantine and Security Complex in Rantau Panjang, Kelantan.

The clock was showing 2pm sharp as a group of travellers made their way towards the gateway between Malaysia and Thailand in the border town of Rantau Panjang in Kelantan. 

They had been walking for more than 2km but appeared undaunted by the strong sun rays streaming down overhead.

They were among many returning to their home towns in Thailand for the Hari Raya Haji holiday – a rare treat for migrant workers whose visits home were few and far in between. 

With traffic at a crawl since early that week, they decided to travel to the checkpoint by foot.

A family of three who spoke to MalaysiaNow said they were waiting for a taxi to take them to the goods inspection point inside the Immigration, Customs, Quarantine and Security Complex.

They planned to spend the night in Rantau Panjang before continuing their journey to their home town in Narathiwat.

Hashim Aweng, his wife and son began planning their trip two years ago, when their business began to pick up in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

But was not until this year that they were able to begin making the journey home. 

Cars queue outside the Immigration, Customs, Quarantine and Security Complex.

"It's been so long since we've seen things like this," Hashim said, gesturing to the hustle and bustle of the crowd around them. 

"The line of cars is so long. Many of the Thais who go back and forth from Malaysia for business miss the festivity of going home for Raya like this."

Long lines 

Rantau Panjang, a duty-free zone, has been a popular transit point for Thai citizens since the early 1990s. 

It was built around 1994 and quickly became a main draw for domestic tourists looking to travel to Sungai Golok, Songkla, Narathiwat, and Hat Yai.

Apart from the land route, there is also the water route across Sungai Golok, which separates Malaysia from Thailand. 

Thai citizens seeking to enter their country by water normally need only show their identity cards and confirm their identities to the soldiers or officers stationed at the entry points. 

Back at the complex, meanwhile, the lines of travellers waiting to verify their passports at the customs and immigration counters continue to grow ahead of Hari Raya Haji. 

The queues are compounded by the Malaysians returning to Kelantan, with traffic police on standby to guide vehicles and ensure the safety of the pedestrians weaving their way in and out among the cars. 

Outside the complex, hawkers conduct lively business with those waiting for their turn at the counters. 

Affendi Yatim, a snacks vendor who runs a stall on the sidewalk, said he had had a steady stream of customers since 8am. 

On normal days, it's difficult for him to even finish selling his goods. Since Monday, however, he has been able to close shop by noon. 

"I come back later with more food to sell to my customers," he said, adding that the lively atmosphere was expected to continue until after Hari Raya Haji when Thai workers enter the country through Kelantan again in order to return to their jobs. 

"There are always more people coming back, because the workers return with others eager to find jobs as well," he said. 

"That's when traffic becomes even slower, and there is a higher demand for transportation services."